Linda Johnson
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Linda Johnson
Linda Johnson
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Joined: 2021-06-26
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Dialogue – Not Tripping Over Your Tongue

Who likes to write dialogue – raise your hand? Now…keep it raised so that we can find you and kick the crap out of you. If we are all honest, no one really enjoys writing dialogue. It always sounds stale and it never sounds on paper, like it sounded in our heads. Dialogue is really tough.

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So how does a writer deal with dialogue without tripping over their own tongue? There are a lot of advice pieces out there on how to do it correctly. Me…I employ the common sense method, as many of you know. Here are a few of my thoughts:

Listen to how people talk – Wait, listen to other people? Say I don’t really have to Jai! Well, you do. And don’t just listen to dialect. Listen to how folks communicate. Sometimes talking and communicating are two totally different things.

Don’t write dialogue exactly like real speech – Let’s be honest, dialogue isn’t totally like real speech. Regular talking doesn’t always include the proper punctuation. (Just have a conversation with my neighbor – you’d swear he was drunk but it’s just the way he talks) Try and strike a balance between actual speech and ensuring that it makes sense.

Don’t rattle on – This is one of my favorites. A lot of writers begin dialogue and they feel that they need to have the character describe everything. Information overload. If you have a friend who speaks like this, “I’m walking to the table now, to pick up this gun here and I am then going to point it at you and sneeze, shooting you in the foot and making you mad…” make them stop it! And please don’t let your characters do that…it’s just silly.

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Dialogue Tags, Just Say No – Dialogue tags are the quicksand in the mire of the writing world. Every piece of dialogue does not need a label. By the time you get through a conversation with he said, she said, they asked, she inquired, he explained…your reader is either asleep or somewhat confused. Assume your reader is at least smart enough to follow a regular conversation. Introduce the characters the first time they speak in a given conversation and then let them do the talking.
These are just a few of the rules to follow when writing dialogue. Trust me, there are plenty more out there but the more you write, the more you’ll get the hang of it. Remember that no writer truly enjoys writing dialogue. It makes you think too much and no matter how hard you try, you will still walk away from a written dialogue wondering what else you could have done to make it right. That’s ok…practice makes…well…for more practice.

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